Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mandarin almond cake

It's been awhile but I've been baking up a storm especially as every event definitely needs cake. When Pepe requested a cake to take to his work's for morning tea, I knew what to do with the recently picked mandarins from Fords Farm.

And surprise surprise it was a winner, picking up a prize for the delicious cake as well as many requests for the recipe.

So with that in mind, here's the recipe.

Mandarin almond cake


4 mandarins

250g caster sugar

6 eggs

250g almond meal

1 tsp baking powder

Icing sugar to serve


1.       Place mandarins in a small pot and bring to boil. 

2.       Boil for 1 hour until soft. (Make sure you check that there is water in the pot or else you'll end up with a burnt mess.) Drain and blitz into a puree and allow to cool.

3.       Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celcius.

4.       Grease and line a 22cm spring form cake tin with baking paper

5.       Use a mixer to beat eggs and caster sugar until well combined for 5 minutes. (It'll look frothy but makes for a light tasting cake)

6.       Stir in the mandarin puree, almond meal and baking powder.

7.       Pour batter into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour until top is golden.

8.       Allow to cool in the tin and dust with icing sugar.

Serve warm, cold and even the next day if there is any slices left.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Signature chicken olive and fennel with preserved lemon

The cool change into winter hasn't done any wonders for my health of late. Hit with the flu at the start of the month to the point of being bed ridden for a few days, then a double whammy of mastitis and laryngitis at the end of the month, things can only look up from here, right?

I've only started feeling like myself after finishing a course of antibiotics and been craving some hearty meals. This tagine recipe has been in my repertoire for a few years and too good not to share.

I love that it's a one pot dish with not very much to prep as I always have one of the kids hanging off me. I love to serve this with wholemeal couscous soaking up the delicious sauce. If you end up with any leftovers, I find that this dish tastes better the next day. Don't take my word for it and see for yourself.

Feeds 4 - 6 people

20 mins preparation
60 mins cooking time


10-12 skinless chicken thigh cutlets
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1 tsp paprika

100mL olive oil
2 onions finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 fennel bulbs thinly sliced

400g can cherry tomato
3cups (750mL) chicken stock
1 tbs honey

1 strip of peel from a lemon and zest from 1/2 an orange
1/4 cup (35g) currants
1 cinnamon quill
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
16 saffron threads (optional)
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1-2 green chillies roughly chopped
1/2 cup (60g) green Sicilian olives
1/2 preserved lemon (optional)

Cous cous
200g wholemeal couscous
sprig of mint
1 tbs parsley
1cm of preserved lemon chopped finely


1. Preheat oven to 200 Celcius.

2. Place chicken in a bag with flour and paprika. Season and shake until chicken is well covered.

3. Heat 1 tbs oil in a cast iron over med-high heat and in batches, brown chicken turning for 3 - 4 minutes adding more oil as needed.

4. Transfer browned chicken to a bowl to add later.

5. Reduce heat to medium. Heat 2 tbs oil in cast iron then add onion and cook stirring for 5 minutes or until softened.

6. Add garlic and fennel and cook for 2 minutes to lightly soften.

7. Add tomatoes, preserved lemon, olives, stock, zest, currants, spices, fresh chilli and honey.

8. Place browned chicken on top of vegetables and just submerged in stock. 

9. Bake for 1 hour in the oven (or simmer on stove top for 45mins over medium low heat).

10. Remove cinnamon quill and strip of lemon peel.

11. Season with salt.

Making couscous
12. Add 200mL boiling water to the couscous into a bowl and place a plate on top and let it stand for 6 minutes.

13. Fluff with fork and add the parsley, mint and preserved lemon.

14. Serve chicken tagine on a bed of couscous.


*This tagine can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours or frozen. To serve, bring to room temperature then reheat in a 180C oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through.

*If feeding for 2 people, I use 2 chicken Marylands with skin and halve the vegetables (1 fennel, 1 onion) and 500mL chicken stock.

*Use a tagine baking dish with lid or if you don't have this a cast iron with lid will do.

*You can substitute the cherry tomatoes with any canned tomatoes tin but I love the pops of flavour with the cherry tomatoes.

*I usually add parsley and mint with a little preserved lemon to toss through the couscous.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Roasted eggplant fattoush

With the last few weeks of my pregnancy, the baby has been taking up valuable tummy space to the point I've can't really fit in big meals. So it has been all about salads. I love Middle Eastern food and the fresh flavours with Lebanese bread.

The two flavours I love most are eggplant and fattoush so why not add these together. The dressing is so good with the sweet and sour notes from the pomegranate molasses and lemon, you'll want to make big match to pour over your salad.

I first made up this salad to have with the Uyghur style lamb skewers. Probably a little too filling to have both the skewers and the roasted eggplant but nonetheless it was delicious.

Serves 4


1 medium eggplant
2 tbs olive oil
pinch of salt

1 piece of Lebanese bread
1 tbs olive oil

1 tomato roughly sliced
1 cucumber roughly sliced
50g feta broken up
1/2 bunch mint leaves
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 bunch basil leaves

2 tbs pomegranate molasses
juice of half lemon
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp za'atar


1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.

2. Place eggplant on a baking paper lined tray and drizzle with 2 tbs oil with a sprinkling of salt.

3. Roast eggplant for 40 minutes until tender and set aside to cool.

4. Drizzle oil over Lebanese bread and bake in oven for 8-10 minutes until crisp and golden.

5. Roughly tear bread and set aside.

6. Add tomato, cucumber into a bowl with the mint, basil, parsley leaves and baked Lebanese bread.

To make the dressing
7. Add cumin, za'atar, molasses, lemon juice, 2 tbs oil into a jar and shake until emulsified.

8. Drizzle dressing on the salad.

Handy hint

Za'atar is available at supermarkets used in marinades, salads and dressings. I prefer the taste of za'atar with the hints of thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac. Sumac alone is too tart tasting for me.

Pomegranate molasses can be found at Harris Farm supermarket.

I also love this salad with Ughur lamb skewers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dutch pancake

I love this recipe as it's perfect when you are time poor and feel like its a pancake kind of day. As I'm on my last legs of my pregnancy, everyday is a pancake kind of day.

This pancake is baked at high temperature in a skillet where it puffs up in the oven then settles down as it comes out. Typically served with a dusting of icing sugar, whipped cream and lemon wedges on the side. It's so delicious.

I love to whip this pancake up and throw whatever fresh fruit I have in the fridge. Today's option was juicy sweet figs.

Makes 1 large pancake


3 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1/3 cup yoghurt
2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup of plan flour

1 tbs of melted butter for the pan


1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celcius.

2. With a mixer beat the eggs, adding the milk, yoghurt, sugar, salt and vanilla until sugar has dissolved.

3. Add flour and mix until smooth.

4. Use an ovensafe frypan and coat the bottom of the pan with the melted butter.

5. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top and dark brown around the edges. (Pancake will rise whilst cooking and deflate once removed to cool.)

Beware the frypan handle is HOT. Use oven mitts to handle the hot handle or else you'll burn your palms. Something I haven't forgotten in a hurry.

6. Loosen the pancake around the edges with a couple of shakes of the frypan and slide out of the pan onto a plate.

7. Serve with fresh fruit, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Handy hints
You can substitute 1/4 cup of yoghurt with thickened cream which will still give you a fluffy texture. But as I have yoghurt in my fridge at all times, this is what I use.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Uyghur lamb skewers

I first came across Uyghur food during my post graduate university days. On a cold night, my boyfriend now hubby came across this small restaurant with the ceiling covered in the grapes and vine leaves diagonally opposite UTS Library. Sorry to say this place no longer exists. It was at that restaurant, I was introduced to the mouth numbing use of Sichuan pepper, braised and steamed dumplings, handmade noodles, the most tender lamb skewers and delicious chicken potato stew dish.

There are many Uyghur restaurants in Chinatown, Haymarket with their giant tapestries, plastic tablecloths, ceiling covered in vine leaves and cheap d├ęcor but the food is what people come here for time and time again.

So who or what is Uyghur you may say. The Uyghurs are a mainly Turkic people whose home is in Central Asia, between Kazakhstan and Mongolia, just north of Tibet in Xinjiang. They're one of more than 50 ethnic minorities in China and speak their own language, Uyghur.

The food is delicious and very comforting. With sciatic nerve issues with walking, it has been harder to go out for dinner so I thought I would try and bring Uyghur food to me with attempting the spice mix on the lamb kebabs that will have you salivating.

The spice mix hits it on the nail and is so good. I dare you try it for yourself.  These are perfect with the eggplant fattoush salad.


1 kg diced lamb (I've tried neck, leg which has worked a treat so far)

3 tbs cumin seeds
2 tbs fennel seeds
1 tbs chilli powder with seeds
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 tsp of powdered garlic
2 tsp salt

3 cloves of garlic
2cm knob of ginger


1. Place 20 skewers in water so these don't burn when you place these lamb skewers on the bbq.

2. Make the seasoning by pounding together, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, chilli powder, powder garlic in a mortle and pestle and set aside.

3. Add garlic and ginger to the mortar and pestle and pound to a paste is formed.

3. Add the garlic and ginger paste with the powdered spices to massage the seasoning into the diced lamb.

4. Skewer the marinated lamb meat onto the skewers.

5. Put the skewers on the bbq grill and cook for 4 minutes and then turn them. Continue grilling until meat is cooked through, approximately 8-10mins in total.

6. Wait til they a slightly cooled and devour with salad.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

General Tso's chicken

Flicking through the pile of Delicious magazines that I've been meaning to go through, I was drawn to Cantonese style dishes. Spicy, Chinese flavours and of course fried goodness.

With the forecast of lashing rain for the entire weekend, I couldn't think of a better way to enjoy the indoors with an American Chinese dish of General Tso's chicken.

I found this recipe rather therapeutic to make. I think it was focussing on grating the garlic and ginger and having all the ingredients in the pantry is always handy. The marinade was relatively easy to make and timing it to make an hour before lunch was perfect.

The batter mix was light and perfect for coating the chicken before frying. General Tso sauce was easy to make and makes extra for another dish. I made up a cabbage slaw instead of serving with rice.

Using 8 chicken thigh fillets makes a lot perhaps too much for 4 people as we had a fair bit left over. The crispness of the chicken does disappear but I found refreshing the chicken in the oven worked well.

I loved this dish, it was so good that we had to this again for dinner.
Recipe by Patrick Friesen, Eric Koh and Christopher Hogarth from Queen Chow, Queen Victoria Hotel Enmore.

Serves 6


Chicken marinade
250mL Chinese rice wine
1 tbs caster sugar
2cm piece ginger, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper
8 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 6 pieces each

Batter mix
1 tbs sunflower oil, plus extra to deep fry
2/3 cup (100g) plain flour
2/3 cup (100g) cornflour
1 cup (250mL) water

To serve
Steamed jasmine rice to serve

My cabbage slaw
1/4 white cabbage thinly sliced
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1/2 red capsicum thinly sliced
handful of pickled red onion or fresh red onion

General Tso's sauce
1/2 cup (125mL) chicken stock
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbs peanut oil
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2cm piece ginger, finely grated
2 spring onions, white part finely chopped, green part cut into 2cm batons
12 died long red chillies
1/4 cup (60mL) dark soy sauce
2 tbs Chinese rice wine (shaohsing)
2 tbs Chinese black rice vinegar
2 tbs caster sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp kombu tsuyu (kombu extract - optional)


To make the marinade
1. Combine the rice wine, sugar, ginger, garlic, stock powder, pepper and 1 tsp salt in a bowl.

2. Add the chicken, cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight to marinate.

To make General Tso's sauce
3. Whisk stock and cornflour in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Heat peanut oil in a wok over high heat.

5. Add garlic, ginger, white spring onion and chillies and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and softened.

6. Add soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, kombu extract and cornflour mixture and stir to combine.

7. Bring to boil then remove from heat and set aside.

To make batter
8. Place sunflower oil, flours and 1 tsp salt in a bowl.

9. Slowly whisk in 1 cup (250mL) water until smooth.

To make chicken
10. Half fill a large pan with sunflower oil and heat to 180 degrees Celcius.

11. Remove chicken from marinade and drain in a colander.

12. Coat chicken in batter allowing excess to drip off.

13. In batches, deep fry chicken for 5 minutes until crisp, golden and cooked.

14. Drain on paper towel.

15. Add fried chicken to General Tso's sauce and toss to coat.

16. Repeat with remaining chicken.

17. Deep fry dark green onion for 2 minutes or until crispy.

18 Top chicken with crispy spring onion and serve with steamed rice or cabbage slaw.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Apple, ginger and lime jam

Making the most of this warm winter, we spent a day out at Bilpin, picking apples at Shields Orchards. It was here, I discovered the taste of tree ripened apples and I can't believe how sweet a Granny Smith apple can be.

The kids and I may have gone slightly overboard with our picking as we managed to pick my youngest child's weight in apples (15kg). Not a bad effort in 30 minutes, But now, I wondered what to make with all these apples. May be even try an apple pie, apple tarte tatin and perhaps apple jam.

Strange as it may sound, I was going to attempt apple jam. Knowing that apples contained high levels of pectin, the jam wouldn't have any problems setting.

The first batch was a mixture of Pink Ladies and Granny Smith apples which worked out a treat. So I made a second batch with just Granny Smiths.

This is a great jam to make as the cooking process time was a lot less than making mandarin marmalade.

I was pleasantly surprised how good both jams were. The Pink Ladies tended to keep its shape better than the Granny Smith apples but I found apples didn't take long to make into jam.

Makes 11 x 300mL jars


3kg of apples once cored and peeled reduces to 2.3-2.5kg.
zest and juice of 3 limes
1.1kg white sugar
50g grated ginger

Prevent apples from browning
juice of half lemon

Optional spices
Cinnamon sticks
Star anise


1. Peel and core all the apples and slice into 2cm pieces.

2. Place the juice of half a lemon and water into a deep bowl to place the chopped apples to prevent from browning.

3. Drain the lemon water bowl and place chopped into a large heavy based saucepan with 1 Litre of water over a low heat for 30 minutes until the fruit softens.

4. Once the fruit has softened, add sugar and stir using a wooden spoon until dissolved.

5. Add half the zest, all the lime juice and grated ginger.

6.  Bring to boil for 40 minutes or til setting point is reached, stirring continuously so it doesn't catch on the bottom and burn (you want to avoid this as cleaning this burnt sugary goodness is not fun). The jam will turn slightly more orange pink in colour.

How to test your setting point?
Put a plate in the freezer and chill it. Take it out when ready to test, add a dollop of jam onto plate. Let it stand for a 30 seconds. Then draw a line through the jam with your finger, if the line disappears, its means the jam is still runny, so keep boiling the mixture for another 5-10 minutes and test again. When the you draw a line through the jam and the line remains, your jam is ready for bottling.

7. Meanwhile, sterilise jars by giving these a warm soapy wash then placing into the oven at 110C for 15 minutes until completely dry. To sterilise the lids, place into boiling water in a saucepan for 5minutes and leave these to air dry on the dish rack.

8. Once setting point of the jam is reached, add the rest of the lime zest.Feel free to add a cinnamon stick into the jar, a few cloves or star anise to vary the flavours.

9. Carefully ladle the jam mixture into the sterilised jars filling to the top.

10. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clear damp cloth before putting the lids on.

11. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 years. Once opened, refrigerate and use within a few months.

Handy hints

You can mix up the jam by adding Cointreau, whisky, brandy for an adults only version of this jam. For this jam, I added a mix of 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves and star anise. I'm looking forward to trying these variations in a few months time and seeing how the flavours have developed.

A great breakfast option is toast with ricotta and apple jam. Yum yum.